Amid the rising number of monkeypox cases, a new report says that it may never be eliminated because too many infections are going under the radar and pet animals could continue to harbour the virus.
Monkeypox may now be endemic in the UK and Europe, leading experts have warned as the virus normally confined to areas of Africa continues to spread around the world, reports the Daily Mail.
Adam Kucharski, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said it was unlikely the current outbreak would spiral into a pandemic like Covid because it spreads through prolonged close contact.
But the epidemiologist, who is also a member of the UK's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), warned the "biggest risk" is that cases will "not be eliminated in some places".
He said any persistent transmission increases the risk that the virus, closely related to smallpox, could be passed onto pets, meaning there will be permanent reservoirs of infection, as is the case in Africa.
EU health chiefs have already acknowledged this threat and are considering a cull for all hamsters, gerbils and guinea pigs owned by monkeypox patients.
In the UK, officials are also expected to release guidance telling infected Britons to keep their distance from family pets.
On Friday, a World Health Organization report said that the virus has spread to more than 20 countries, with about 200 confirmed cases and over 100 suspected cases in nations where it is typically not found.